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University diabetes experts share innovative research into elite cycling team

Sport and exercise science experts from Swansea University have shared their world-leading research into how elite cyclists contend with diabetes at an international conference.

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The researchers presented their findings at the prestigious American Diabetes Association’s Scientific Sessions held in San Francisco and attended by the most eminent academics and health professionals.

The team, led by Associate Professor Richard Bracken, spent 10 days earlier this year studying riders from Team Novo Nordisk during a gruelling Spanish training camp.


The cycling team, the only professional one made up of riders with type 1 diabetes, were carefully monitored to learn more about how their bodies coped with spending up to six hours a day in the saddle.

Dr Bracken, Dr Othmar Moser, Max Eckstein and Olivia McCarthy, from the College of Engineering, were part of a global team made up of experts from UK, US, Canada, Austria, Italy and Switzerland who presented research based on their studies at the American conference.

Their topics were:

  • Sweet Performance: Associations of maximum physiological performance and diabetes in a group of world- class road cyclists with type 1 diabetes,(Max Eckstein)
  • Time spent in glycaemic ranges and carbohydrate intake during cycling in professional cyclists with type 1 diabetes (Olivia McCarthy)
  • Greater time spent in hypoglycemia during nocturnal than daytime period during intensified training in professional cyclists with type 1 diabetes–a prospective observational study (Othmar Moser)

Dr Bracken said: “Being able to study the cyclists during their training presented us with a great opportunity.

“We were able to find out more about the bespoke physiology of these elite athletes and better understand their responses to extreme exercise and the strategies they use – factors  like food intake, sleep and medication adjustments.

“This provided us with important information that we could share to an international audience at the conference as well as in scientific journals.”

Swansea University is at the forefront investigation into diabetes and is home of the renowned Diabetes Research Unit Cymru . Now the researchers’ ongoing relationship with Team Novo Nordisk looks set to continue to provide greater understanding of the condition.

Team Novo Nordisk CEO and co-founder Phil Southerland said: “We are honoured to be a part of such ground-breaking research. The mission behind our team is to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes.

“We are committed to demonstrating how our athletes race at the top level, day after day, with diabetes and are pleased that these techniques can be shared with healthcare professionals from all over the world and help empower and educate people with diabetes on how to approach exercise.”

Dr Bracken, his team and research colleagues from Austria have just returned from the Tour of Solvenia where they followed the riders over five days of the gruelling UCI-accredited race.

The researchers were able to measure the cyclists’ glucose levels continuously throughout the race as well as trial a novel device for automatic recording of injected insulins, meals composition and in-ride nutrition.

He added: “This research is really helping us to provide the kind of information healthcare professionals need to encourage the wider type 1 diabetes community to do physical activity.”